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Culture

Dressing down Ziff-Davis

No, it's not another column about Victoria's Secret --you should be so lucky.

Brevity is the soul of lingerie
--Dorothy Parker

No, it's not another column about Victoria's Secret--you should be so lucky. The news of the hour is that Ziff-Davis has finally figured out this Internet thing. Clothes, CEO Eric Hippeau has decided, make the medium.

With a stroke of the virtual pen, Hippeau liberated his minions from the likes of Bill Blass and Anne Taylor and sent them hurtling naked into the Gap. Hippeau heralded his move as an indication that ZD has finally arrived on the Net. Quelles arrivistes!

The move toward "business casual" five days a week is "one more sign of the continuing transformation of ZD into an Internet-centric company," Hippeau proclaimed. The Happy Hippeau went on to expound: "The high-tech culture, and more recently the Internet culture, has changed the world of business from top to bottom, and that includes the nature of business dress. Casual clothing in the business environment is part of the credo of today's technology generation that has left behind many of the traditional ways of thinking, acting, and doing business. And so, it is appropriate that Ziff-Davis, as a leader of this generation, dress the part."

The leader of this leader of this generation is warning his liberated legions against excessive exuberance, however. Forbidden are "slippers or open sandals...sweatpants, shorts, bib overalls, spandex, lycra, or other form-fitting pants and jeans that are excessively worn or faded...T-shirts, tank tops, shirts with inappropriate messages/graphics, and tops with bare shoulders, unless worn under a blouse/shirt or jacket."

In addition, "Skirt lengths should be appropriate for an office environment." Anyone with questions on this last point is advised to consult with my secretary Trixie Pixel.

Meanwhile, after mulling Hippeau's fashion index I'm less convinced that he really groks this whole Internet thing. If it doesn't let you wear spandex overalls spray-painted with inappropriate messages, is it really an Internet media company? Or just a filtering software firm?

While ZD dresses down, a group of volunteers who help put together the company's Networld + Interop conferences is dressing down ZD. ZD used to rely on these conference groupies to help install networking equipment donated by a variety of companies in exchange for certain conference perquisites. Those perks trickled down on the volunteers--but all that just dried up.

Apparently ZD has canned its Interop Team Member (ITM) and Network Operations Center (NOC) volunteer groups in favor of having vendors come in and set up the show on their own. Rumor has it that in response to an outcry ZD proposed inviting 15 ITM and 5 NOC team members--60-80 ITM and 20-30 NOC team members used to attend. Word is that the members are wary of doing the work of three people.

ITMs and NOCs are in an online uproar over the matter.

"People are in a tiff because they made huge changes to the program but they tossed the good points and bad points," said one disappointed NOC. "Plus they made the changes so abruptly, I'm not sure they can get the replacement vendors in time. I'm not sure how well this is going to fly. ZD pissed off a lot of people."

One axed volunteer ascribed the changes to cost cutting. Could ZD be pinching pennies to fund a new spandex police unit? Or perhaps its rumored acquisition kitty for CMP? A Skinformant whispers that the company has a hiring freeze on CMP employees pending the outcome of that alliance, which is neither confirmed nor holy.

Blame the press--even when you are the press! ZD recently canceled its "Millennium Conference" on IT business and government relations "due to sponsors' concerns with the current news environment in Washington, D.C."

The conference, supposed to have been held today and yesterday, actually was postponed several weeks ago in the thick of the impeachment imbroglio.

"We wanted to bring together policy makers and IT people, so we had invited several congressmen and senators," said a ZD flak. "The whole idea was to have a discussion about the issues." Apparently--because of the news environment--Congress had something else on it's mind. The Millennium Conference will be held in the next millennium.

ZD isn't the only one with a millennium problem, as reporters here who received the following email message are beginning to suspect:

Date: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 12:36:22 -0500 (EST)
From: "BellSouth"
Subject: BLS: Y2K Interoperability Tests Successful
To: registered@bellsouthcorp.com
Reply-to: webmaster@bellsouthcorp.com

An Error Occurred

500 - Select failed: Interrupted system call.

Nothing to worry about, I'm sure--BellSouth has 302 days to pull itself together. I can barely pull myself together on a daily basis. So help me out with your rumors.